Garda ombudsman will need more than 200 extra staff, committee told

Gsoc chairman and senior counsel Rory MacCabe tells Public Accounts Committee that existing team of 163 staff will need to be bolstered


A stock picture of the Garda badge logo. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 16, 2019. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) could need more than 200 extra staff in the coming months, an Oireachtas committee has been told. Commission chairman Rory MacCabe SC told the Public Accounts Committee the existing team of 163 staff would likely need to be increased by an extra 180, a figure which could potentially increase to 239 depending on future workloads.

The committee also heard how the number of protected disclosures to Gsoc rose by more than half last year.

Director of Operations Peter Whelan said the commission received 28 disclosures in 2023, compared to 18 the previous year. The section which deals with complaints was currently recruiting for more staff but the process was “difficult”, he said.

Last week legislation to establish a new ombudsman which will replace Gsoc completed its passage through the Oireachtas. The new agency will be called Fiosrú, and will begin work in July.


“Fiosrú will have new structures, new management and a lot more work. A core strategic priority for us as commissioners has been to ensure that we leave the organisation well prepared for the challenges ahead. This has meant significant work for all of us, in addition to the delivery of our current statutory functions,” Mr MacCabe said.

“When Fiosrú comes into being it will hold its own independent budgetary vote and have its own CEO and accounting officer.”

Gsoc independently investigates allegations from the public of Garda misconduct, whether disciplinary or criminal. The commission also investigates referrals by An Garda Síochána in the case of death and serious harm, and also takes referrals from the Minister for Justice and the Policing Authority.

It is also one of the designated bodies to which Garda members and civilian staff can make protected disclosures. In 2022 it received a total of 1,826 complaints, containing 3,207 separate allegations, while receiving 41 referrals from An Garda Síochána.

“Increases in budget and staffing in recent years, added to organisational changes that we have been implementing, have assisted us in reducing backlogs, and in preparing for major institutional transition. “Notwithstanding these increases, our level of resourcing remains below what we need now, and significantly below what the organisation is likely to need in order that Fiosrú can meet its new remit,” Mr MacCabe said.

He pointed towards a Grant Thornton report which described a need for between 180 and 239 extra staff.

“For the new Office of the Police Ombudsman to succeed significant additional support in the shape of resources and expertise will be needed. Resourcing is not just about money. The Minister for Justice and her department have been reactive to and supportive of our ongoing needs. The specialist nature of our work, and the broader dynamics of the labour market today, pose real ongoing challenges in finding and retaining suitably-qualified staff.

“This is a challenge we share with colleagues across the public and Civil Service, and will require workforce planning as Fiosrú comes to terms with the new mandate,” he said.

“In broad terms, and over a phased period, a minimum of a doubling of our current staff complement, including a considerable increase in our complement of investigative staff, will be essential.”

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Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times